An analysis, End Austerity: A Global Report on Budget Cuts and Harmful Social Reforms, estimates that 85% of the world population will be living under austerity measures by next year as tens of millions face hunger, homelessness, and health crises. Around 6.7 billion people are expected to feel austerity's impacts in 2023, with the impacts falling disproportionately on the poor and other vulnerable populations
The report finds that "a long list of austerity measures is being considered or already implemented by governments worldwide," including budget cuts targeting key social programs, privatization of public services, and wage caps for teachers, healthcare workers, and others. The report shows that 143 countries—94 of which are developing nations—are pursuing austerity, often at the urging of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has imposed punishing loan terms on low-income countries throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The IMF and other global financial institutions often recommend targeting social programs only to the extreme poor in an attempt to justify budget cuts, "a typical neoliberal policy" with damaging impacts that have frequently spurred mass uprisings.
"Despite the cost-of-living crisis, governments in developing countries, often with their hands tied by international financial institutions, are putting big corporations ahead of the people," said Matti Kohonen, director of the Financial Transparency Coalition. "Nearly 40% of Covid-19 recovery funds went to big companies, meaning that those most impacted by the pandemic have been left behind."
Aggressive means-testing "is often justified as an 'improvement,' including in many low- and lower-middle-income countries such as Central African Republic, Eswatini, Gambia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, and Uganda, where the majority of the population lives below the poverty line," the report continues.
"In the worst of times, austerity is the worst possible choice. It should not even be on the agenda," argued Nabil Abdo, Oxfam International's senior policy adviser. "Austerity is designed to dismantle public healthcare and education and labor regulations. It enriches the wealthy and big corporations at the expense of the rest of us. Choosing austerity over many other ways to reduce deficits or even boost budget revenues, like taxing wealth and windfall profits, is not only economically disastrous—it’s deadly."